Gospel Mt 16:13-23
Who would give a fisherman the keys to a Kingdom? What does it mean? In one sense it is a ceremonial act to honor a person for their service to that community.the key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will as a trusted friend of the community. It also gives the military the legal right to march through a particular city. Interestingly a breech of this “key to the city” privilege was made by none other than General Julius Caesar in 49BC. At that date Caesar and his legion crossed the Rubicon River, the boundary between Gaul and Italy.This action was forbidden for a military general as proscribed by Roman law; a law made to protect Rome from a a coup d’état.Caesars action started “Caesar’s Civil War.” Crossing that river (forcibly taking the” keys to the kingdom”) started his march on Rome.Caesar’s Civil War, was one of the last political / military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire. It began as a series of political and military confrontations, between Julius Caesar , against the Roman Senate, who were supported by Pompey.
With that information, maybe the question should be rephrased.The question really is Who had the right to give Peter the keys to the Kingdom? Peter got that answer right; the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”The parallels between Jesus and Caesar make perfect sense with the phrase “the son of God” for Julius after his death was declared a divinity, a God.His son, the next emperor Augustus was named “the Son of God”. If the Son of God of an earthly kingdom, the kingdom of Rome; had the right to dole out the Keys, didn’t the son of God of the Heavenly kingdom have the same right?
Back to the first question.Who would give a fisherman the keys to a Kingdom? The privilege usually is given to some one important, a great leader. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to give those keys to one of the Temple Priests, or the Sanhedrin, or to Herod? They were the leaders of the day. They were the important people of Society. Why give the keys to a fisherman? While it is true that Peter was a trusted disciple, and he was groomed for the job, I like to think that Jesus also wanted to remove that key from those respectable, powerful members of society who so often abused that privilege and honor of holding the “keys to the Kingdom.” I like to think that Jesus wanted to return those keys to their rightful owners, those who worked for the kingdom rather than just profited from it. I like to think Jesus wanted to return those keys to the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I like to think he took them from the powerful and gave them to those who mourn, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful,the pure in heart, the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He wanted to give them to Peter, and those like Peter.
The funny thing about those keys though is when Peter got them he followed in Cesar’s footsteps and made his own march to Rome to become the first “bishop of Rome”
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”